University of Illinois


Chief Illiniwek represented the University of Illinois from 1926 to 2007, symbolizing the Native Americans that once resided in what is now Illinois. Controversy arose in the mid 1970s concerning the use of Native American symbols in relation to sports teams; supporters of Chief Illiniwek lost the battle, and Chief Illiniwek performed his last dance on February 21, 2007, at a U of I men’s home basketball game. Most Illini would never refer to Chief Illiniwek as a “mascot,” but rather a symbol of the University of Illinois.

The portrayal of Chief Illiniwek was always done by a student who donned a feathered headdress donated by Native American tribes, as well as an outfit designed and sewn by a member of the Ogala Sioux tribe of South Dakota. Prior to each home football and basketball game, along with various other athletic events, Chief Illiniwek would perform a combination of authentic Native American dances taught to them by tribe members.

Plenty of controversy surrounded the disbanding of Chief Illiniwek. Read more about The Chief, as well as the official press release from U of I regarding The Chief’s dismissal.

Chief Illiniwek’s last dance in Memorial Stadium, 11/11/06

Chief Illiniwek’s final dance, 2/21/07